CHARLOTTE, N.C. – African-Americans who incorporate prayer, religion and God into their lives have lower blood pressure than found in less religious African-Americans, according to a new study.
Among African-Americans, those reporting higher levels of religious belief had lower blood pressure in the clinic setting, during workday activities and during sleep. This finding held true even when controlling for variables such as age and body mass index – two risk factors for high blood pressure.
“Our research suggest that religious coping may help buffer cardiovascular disease in African-Americans,” said Patrick R. Steffen, of Duke University Medical Center.
Steffen measured blood pressure of 155 people in a clinic and during typical workday activities and sleep, using an automated blood pressure monitor. They also measured “religious coping” by asking the subjects to rate the extent to which they put trust in God, seek God’s help, try to find comfort in religion and “pray more than usual.”
All of the study participants were 25 to 45 years old and employed. Seventy-eight were African-American and 77 were white. None of the participants used tobacco products, took cardiovascular medications or had blood pressure greater than 180/100 (High blood pressure is a consistent reading of 140/90).
Race differences. In contrast to their findings in African-Americans, the researchers found that religious coping was not significantly related to blood pressure in whites. Whites reported engaging in less religious coping than did African-Americans.
In other words, African-Americans were much more likely than whites to turn to prayer, religion and God to cope with daily life.
At risk. Approximately 50 million people in the United States have high blood pressure, a condition that greatly increases risk for heart disease, kidney failure and stroke.
African-Americans are more likely than whites to have hypertension, to develop hypertension at an earlier age and to have hypertension-related diseases.
Studies conducted solely within clinic settings have also found that religious coping activities, such as prayer, scripture study and seeking religious help and comfort, are associated with lower blood pressure.
However, critics of this type of research have charged that many studies have shown inconsistent effects between religion and blood pressure, and that many studies are undermined by methodological problems.
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